Do you recognise that your emotions surrounding your menstrual cycle are heightened? Do you feel inner tension and find that strong emotional feelings impact your day-to-day work and personal relationships? This may indicate a deeper underlying hormonal imbalance known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMDD is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) however, PMDD symptoms are more severe compared to PMS as it includes depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings.
Due to falling hormone levels post ovulation, PMDD symptoms usually starts 1-2 weeks prior to your period and may end 2-3 days after your period begins. For each woman this is different, it may be from as soon as ovulation occurs or may be a few days before the period.
Symptoms of PMDD:
- Feeling tense
- Feelings of anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of sadness
- Feelings of despair of even suicidal thoughts
- Irritability or anger that lasts and affects others around you
- Mood swings- you may find that you cry a lot during this time
- Lack of motivation in usual activities
- Lack of interest in relationships
- “Out of control” feelings
- Sleeping difficulties
- Difficult concentrating
- Food cravings
- Binge eating
- Physical symptoms include: breast tenderness, cramps, bloating,
- headaches, joint and muscular pain (note that PMDD diagnosis must
- include the presence of mood/anxiety symptoms)
- Symptoms that interfere with work, school, activities and relationships
If you identify yourself experiencing at least five of these symptoms that begin 1-2 weeks before your period and improve within the 2-3 days after your period begins then you may be experiencing PMDD! There are many options available for managing PMDD and an effective tool for managing emotional feelings during this time is mindfulness!
So what is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is currently a hot topic due to its many positive benefits in managing difficult emotions and situations in our lives.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of Mindfulness in the western world has defined mindfulness as
“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness techniques can help you to feel a sense of freedom from being reactive to thoughts, feelings and situational events- empowering you to respond rather than being controlled by your emotions.
5 Mindfulness Tips to manage emotional feelings during PMDD:
1. Awareness of breath:
The breath is a powerful tool to help you have a sense of control when you are feeling strong emotions. When feeling irritated, upset or angry with someone, take a moment to take 5 deep mindful breaths. This will help to calm down your sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system state in order to help you to feel grounded and in a better position to respond rather than react (avoiding escalation).
2. Body Scan:
When you are feeling overwhelmed by strong feelings, take a moment to sit down, close your eyes and scan your body from head to toe noticing any sensations that arise. Paying attention to your body will help you to become more aware of what is happening in the present moment as well as the ability to observe the changing nature of sensations.
3. Awareness of thoughts and feelings:
Feeling out of control? Take a moment to observe your thoughts and feelings. Empowerment will arise as you build awareness and gain insight into the context behind your thoughts and feelings. As the observer you are allowing yourself the space to reflect, find perspective and better respond to situations rather than being reactive.
4. Practising non-judgement:
Avoid judging and criticising yourself during this time as this will only perpetuate a negative mindset. Instead become the non-judgemental observer that views and accept your feelings and emotions during this time, knowing with inner wisdom that they are impermanent and will pass.
5. Self compassion:
Mindful self-compassion is important during a time of heightened emotions; we are all part of the human condition and deserve compassion. When you are feeling overwhelmed validate your emotions and recognise your immense inner strength. Allow reflection and acknowledge that you are not defined by your emotions, they are transient and you are worthy of self-love.